Shelley: The Man and the Poet

Shelley: The Man and the Poet

Shelley: The Man and the Poet

Shelley: The Man and the Poet


In this book I have tried to make a new appreciation of Shelley's poetry, both lyrics and longer poems, for readers who have no special knowledge of the subject. In the past seventy years there have been many biographies of Shelley, and many books on particular aspects of his work, but no balanced survey of his poems. The nearest approach to such a survey, Carlos Baker's study of Shelley's Major Poetry, excludes the lyrics by which he is best known to most readers.

I have consciously disturbed the balance of the book in only one respect, by laying extra emphasis on Shelley's scientific interests, which, it seems to me, previous commentators have unduly neglected, with the result that some of his richest poetry has not been fully appreciated.

Shelley's poetry cannot properly be divorced from his life. So I have taken the poems chronologically, and have included a thin linking thread of biography. Shelley's last four years, in Italy, when he did his best work, take up nearly three-quarters of the book, his first twenty-six years being covered in Chapters I-IV. These early chapters, especially the first, therefore carry the heaviest load of biography, and can be regarded as introductory.

The text is intended to be read without the numbered notes, most of which merely record the sources of quotations or give references for further reading.

I am grateful to Laurence Kitchin for valuable advice over a period of several years; to John Buxton, Fellow of New College, Oxford, for many comments on points of detail; and most of all to my wife, Marie, who has read and criticized the successive drafts of the book and has helped so much to improve it.


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